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LGBT Postcards From Netroots Nation

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My better half, Caleb Eigsti, and I just finished a week in Las Vegas, where we attended our first Netroots Nation. The conference claims it “amplifies progressive voices by providing an online and in-person campus for exchanging ideas and learning how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate.” In reality, it was a swarming of over 2100 progressive activists, organizations, writers, and bloggers, who descended upon Sin City to talk shop, create new alliances, and rekindle old friendships.

(On Twitter, however, Netroots Nation, better known as #NN10, was an opportunity for the Ridiculous Right, especially, “#TCOT,” to lie and snark all weekend long. It’s truly amazing how disgusting, asinine, and juvenile our adversaries are!)

Netroots Nation this year was held at the Las Vegas Rio, which had a nice pool with nice fruity drinks…

but terrible Internet service…

Caleb and I spent an evening in Paris — the Paris Las Vegas! — where we won BIG MONEY!

Then, after Netroots Nation finished on Saturday, Caleb and I took a mini-vacation. I originally started writing this on Sunday from our room at the Bellagio, which offered an amazing view…

and amazing raspberry-stuffed french toast!

Now, it’s the wee hours of Tuesday morning. I’m on a plane (jetBlue!) sitting next to my partner, and trying to take all my thoughts and feelings about our first Netroots Nation conference and give you the “big picture” take-aways.

I confess I was surprised at the relatively small number of members of the LGBT community who attended, although I’m told it was our “best” showing ever. That concerns me.

Next year’s Netroots Nation has already been announced. It will be in June, in Minneapolis, where it’s cooler!…

… than Las Vegas’ 107 degree heat!

It was great to finally meet so many notables from our community, including The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld, Pam Spaulding and Autumn Sandeen of Pam’s House Blend, Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper, and (yeah!) my (awesome!) Change.org editor, Michael A. Jones, as well as say hello to some amazing friends (all icons!) like Mike Rogers, Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson, NGLTF’s Inga Sarda-Sorensen, Joe Jervis, aka, Joe.My. God, and GetEqual co-founder Robin McGehee.

Caleb and I attended many of the LGBT panels and caucuses. Most of our focus was on the issue of marriage, but we definitely noted some strong themes that ran throughout the entire conference.

Perhaps the most-repeated was the idea that all progressives need to work together, because we share the same ideals, and even if you don’t care about, say, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and even if I don’t care about, say, the environment (of course I do!,) we share the same adversaries/enemies, and we need to pool our resources and manpower (person-power?)

(Note: Read Caleb’s excellent takes on Netroots Nation: “Organizing Equality Under Obama, No Better Than Being Under Bush?” and “Marriage Equality Through A Netroots Nation Looking Glass.”)

As one speaker put it, the Tea Party has shown that they can easily switch from attacks on gays to attacks on blacks to attacks on Obama. We need to deploy the same flexibility and wide-reaching push-back skills.

So, after taking everything in and mulling it all over, here’s what I want you to know and to think about:

1.    Progressives, and perhaps especially LGBTs, seem beaten-down, though not, by any means, out. The LGBT leadership seemed especially focused on finding the positive in all the negatives, without changing gears or focus. It’s safe to say, from all I heard, that they are ready to continue our long slog at the same, slow pace, plodding along, offering little new tactics or strategy. This is a problem.

2.    I am, however, very pleased to finally see our leadership organizations working together. Long-time readers of this blog will know that I have respectfully chastised our leaders for not finding ways to work together. It would appear they have all now exchanged contact information!

3.    LGBT bloggers and activists need to now follow this lead and start working together. I’ve felt this way for a long time. Why don’t we share more information among ourselves, so we can be more efficient and effective in keeping our readers informed? Some of my LGBT blogging and activist friends have been very willing and ready to do this. Most recently, I’m thinking of Rod McCollum (Rod 2.0) and Scott Wooledge (DailyKos) with whom I worked on the sad, first anniversary of the murder of Seaman August Provost, and folks like Joe Jervis and David Mixner, who have been so supportive of me. (Thanks to you all!)

4.    You need to get (more) involved. Seriously. Whatever degree of involvement you have now, and I know for many readers of this blog you spend most of your waking hours “on patrol,” you need to step up the fight and get more of your friends, family, and co-workers working on our issues. There is no doubt in my mind that in just a very few short months, if Democrats don’t flood the polls, we will have given Congress — both houses — over to the GOP. That is unacceptable and cannot happen. If it does, we will have only ourselves to blame.

Again, you may remember the piece I wrote last summer over at Bilerico, “Fill The Void,” in which I warned that if we didn’t flood the media with positive news and information about LGBT issues, the right would “fill the void” with their lies and hate. That was one of the reasons we created, “The Great Nationwide Kiss-In.” It worked!

I want to challenge all my LGBT friends and allies to find ways to counteract the lies we know will be coming from the Right this August. With Congress in recess, they’ll have little to do and we can easily end up their target. Let’s take this opportunity this year to throw the first punch.

Next year, I truly want to see some things happen differently at Netroots Nation 2011. Primarily, I want more opportunities for the LGBT caucus to work together. I want our bloggers and activists and organizations locked in a room for a full day, sharing ideas and frustrations and coming up not only with ways to be more efficient and effective, but with actual strategies and focuses. There was a pre-Netroots day where 50+ bloggers got together, and Mike Rogers promises to open it up to many more next year.

I’ll leave you with one final thought: Regardless of what you call yourself, a progressive, a liberal, a Democrat, or someone with left-leaning tendencies, it is critical that we stand together now, and through November. Or surely, we will stand alone.

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News

Democrats Discredit GOP Claims on IVF as Republicans Try to Regain Ground After Fallout

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One week after the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled frozen human embryos are “children,” causing several medical institutions to pause their in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs, Alabama and the GOP have seen tremendous nationwide anger, upset, and confusion from the left and the right over the decision, the Christian nationalist chief judge, and the Republican Party that set this in motion.

Now, GOP lawmakers and political groups are trying to regain ground after some Republicans quickly embraced the decision that, as White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre predicted Tuesday, would cause “exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make.”

“As a reminder,” Jean-Pierre added, “this is the same state whose attorney general threatened to prosecute people who help women travel out of state to seek the care they need.”

President Joe Biden condemned the Alabama ruling: “The disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families is outrageous and unacceptable.”

But U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) cheered his state’s Supreme Court, while appearing to not fully grasp what IVF is.

READ MORE: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Biden Campaign Blasts Trump Christian Nationalism Plans

“I was all for it,” he said of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, calling young people “our number one commodity.”

But when pressed, Tuberville declared, “I’d have to look at the entire bill, how it’s written, I have not seen it,” referring not to legislation but the ruling.

And when told that women will now not be able to have IVF treatments, Tuberville repeatedly replied it was “unfortunate.”

On Thursday night, speaking to a group of religious broadcasters, Donald Trump denounced the Alabama ruling and vowed to protect IVF. On Friday, the beleaguered Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) issued a memo directing Republicans to defend IVF. Also Friday, the Attorney General for the state of Alabama, mentioned earlier by the White House Press Secretary, effectively suggested he would ignore the state supreme court’s ruling, promising to not prosecute IVF families, as ABC News reported.

But Democrats are making clear that despite whatever claims or promises Republicans make, the IVF ruling is the direction conservatives are taking the Republican Party.

READ MORE: Smirnov Scandal: Experts Call for Investigations, Warn GOP of Possible Conspiracy Charges

“First Republicans banned abortions so women couldn’t terminate a pregnancy. Now they are coming for IVF so women can’t begin a pregnancy. The GOP agenda is about one thing: government control of women,” observed U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) (photo).

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox reports a new NRSC memo “instructs [GOP] candidates to reject clearly and concisely government attempts to restrict access to IVF.”

Just hours later, Sen. Murphy responded, saying, “umm the chairman of the NRSC sponsored the bill to ban IVF.”

He added, “newsflash: no matter what they tell their candidates to pretend, when they get power they use it to control women.”

The NRSC’s goal is to help get Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate. It is chaired by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a MAGA Republican and member of the Senate’s Pro-Life Caucus.

As Bloomberg’s Matthew Yglesias notes, Senator Daines is an original co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act.

The Center for American Progress’ Colin Seeberger adds, Daines “quite literally has been a longtime co-sponsor of the Lifetime at Conception Act, which would establish legal protections for the unborn just as the Alabama Supreme Court ordered and has led to the suspension of fertility care across AL.”

Meanwhile, Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz notes that the “text of GOP‘s most recent platform claims that ‘the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed’ and calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban all abortions — and jeopardize IVF — by granting 14th Amendment rights to fetuses.”

READ MORE: Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

Indeed, as The New York Times reported, far-right Christian conservative Tony Perkins, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ extremist group Family Research Council, called the Alabama Supreme Court ruling a “beautiful defense of life and the Alabama Constitution.”

Friday afternoon Donald Trump followed up his vow to protect IVF with a social media post that claims in part, “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder! That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every State in America. Like the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Americans, including the VAST MAJORITY of Republicans, Conservatives, Christians, and Pro-Life Americans, I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby.”

Former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer responded, asking: “Why would anyone believe this? In 2016, Trump pledged no cuts to Medicaid and then spent four years trying to gut the program.”

And as Axios reports, “House Democrats’ main super PAC is promising to pour money into attacking Republicans on fertility treatments in the wake of a controversial, first-of-its-kind Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Axios has learned.”

“Trump’s call came a day after President Biden’s re-election campaign blamed him for the ruling, noting his appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” Axios adds. House Majority PAC, in a memo set to be released Friday, listed nearly a dozen current and former House Republicans in competitive districts who have co-sponsored at least one version of the Life at Conception Act between 2021 and 2023.”

See the social media posts and video above or at this link.

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Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

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The re-arrest of Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant who allegedly may have provided House Republicans with Kremlin propaganda that was the basis for their efforts to impeach President Joe Biden and attack his son Hunter, raised some eyebrows on Thursday.

Smirnov, once considered House Republicans’ Jim Comer and Jim Jordan’s star witness, was re-arrested even after a magistrate judge ordered him released, and at his attorneys’ offices, raising eyebrows from even national security experts, insisting there had better be a good reason for it.

Now, according to a noted legal expert, it appears there was.

“A California judge seems to be suggesting [Smirnov’s] lawyers are complicit in his efforts to flee, in a remarkable line ordering detention for the FBI source whose lies propelled Biden impeachment efforts,” writes professor of law and MSNBC legal contributor Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney.

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II in his order wrote on Thursday: “It has come to this Court’s attention that counsel for defendant has sought an emergency hearing in the District of Nevada to arrange the release of Defendant Smirnov, likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States.”

After detailing Smirnov’s arrest and release, Judge Wright ordered his re-arrest, adding: “The U.S. Marshal Service is advised there is to be no deviation from this Order.”

Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld calls Judge Wright’s order “wild,” and adds that Smirnoff’s lawyers released “a terse statement about the extraordinary order.”

“They did not respond to questions about the language in the judge’s order suggesting a ‘likely’ aim to ‘facilitate’ their client ‘absconding from the United States.'”

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Vaccine-Laced Lettuce and Tomatoes? Tennessee GOP Lawmaker Worried

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A Tennessee Republican state lawmaker says he’s worried Tennesseans might overdose on vaccines if they eat too many tomatoes.

State Rep. Scott Cepicky claims vaccines can already be added to foods like lettuce and tomatoes, and to tobacco products, so he has filed legislation to require grocery store items containing vaccines to be labeled.

“University of California Riverside has already perfected the ability to put human vaccines into our lettuce right now,” Rep. Cepicky told his fellow lawmakers Wednesday while discussing his legislation. “Also, tomatoes, has the ability to do that also per UC Berkeley. And then big tobacco, RJ Reynolds and stuff has perfected the ability to put a human vaccine in tobacco products.”

NCRM could find no evidence supporting his claims, although researchers starting in 2021 were studying if it is possible to do so.

Cepicky, who has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), warned, “there is no law, deeming those that when you go into a grocery store, you should know as a consumer, this head of lettuce is a head of lettuce. The head of lettuce right next week could contain a vaccine in it. All we’re saying is if it does have the vaccine in it, make sure it’s listed as a pharmaceutical so people can get the proper dosage.”

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

Facing some pushback from Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Cepicky went on to say, “This is more of a consumer protection bill right here, is to make sure that if you’re going in to buy tomatoes, and there’s a polio vaccine in there, that you are aware of what you’re buying has a polio vaccine. The problem you have is if it’s not treated as a pharmaceutical, being the size and difference between you and me, how many tomatoes do I have to eat to get the proper dosage versus how many tomatoes that you have to eat? And if you eat too many do you get a overdose?”

Asked if his legislation was necessity, Cepicky added, “Well, if you’d have a child that is allergic to a certain vaccine, and it’s not disclosed, when you go to buy that, that vegetable, whatever it is, and your child dies from that, I would think that having place is going to make sure that that is treated as a pharmaceutical so that the consumers know exactly what they’re buying.”

Anti-vaxers gained a foothold during the COVID pandemic, spreading false claims about vaccines. Last year the fact-checking website Snopes deemed it “false” that “mRNA from COVID-19 vaccines has entered the food supply via genetically modified plants bred to contain it or through the consumption of vaccinated livestock.”

“Claims regarding COVID-19 vaccines ‘in your salad‘ have persisted on the internet and recirculated due to misreadings or misinterpretations of several press releases or scientific research,” Snopes added, “Mike Flynn, during a September 2021 podcast appearance, referenced this research, describing it as ‘putting the vaccine in salad dressing.'”

READ MORE: Kremlin Infiltration of Congress Alleged by Ex-Trump Prosecutor: Republicans ‘Duped or in on It’

Flynn, the former Trump U.S. national security advisor, is a far-right Christian nationalist and Trump MAGA activist.

Tennessee lawmakers voted to move Rep. Capicky’s forward.

Watch Rep. Capicky’s remarks below or at this link.

 

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